Posted in governance, Politics, Prose

Sobering reflections by Noel Ihebuzor

1 It is sad when people and nations choose foolishly and then blame fate or the gods for the consequences of their choices.
2. Experience is the best teacher but Nigerians are resistant to its teaching.
3. Huge traces of masochism must be embedded in the DNA of large portions of our populace when it comes to making political choices.
4. One bitten, twice seduced, thrice perpetually confused!
5. Rational Choice Theory (RCT) can explain anything including the worst forms of irrationality and that is its core flaw!

Posted in Politics

A fitting response to a bile driven obituary

Everyone’s obituary is inevitable.

Chuks Iloegbunam tells Sam Omatseye to cleanse his journalism

Some have called you foolish, dear Sam Omatseye. Others insist that you are plain stupid. There are those who hold you to be beneath contempt. Their howls of execration upon you are in reaction to your August 1, 2022 article entitled Obi-tuary ( For me, however, you are a dear friend. Our friendship started in the 1980s at Newswatch magazine where both of us practiced journalism before you travelled to the United States for further studies. It continued upon your return and strengthened to the point that, sometimes, you get the producers of your TV Continental programme to connect me to field questions live. Besides, living in different states, we often chat by telephone. I demonstrated our amity again last May when I was in Nigeria’s commercial capital for the Lagos International Book Fair. I phoned you and, within the hour, you were at my stand where we spent quality time reminiscing about the good old days and prognosticating on the future of our dear fatherland.

Armed with this handle of friendship, I have just the one advice for you: Be careful. It is in elaboration of this counsel that I write all that you read hereon. Please look back to the time of the Nigeria-Biafra war of 1967 to 1970. You will find that, military or civilian, none of the political actors of that era is still in a position to fight elections today. The final curtain long fell for most of them. Of the lot that remains, some have become vegetables, or are propped up with a suffusion of drugs or would not find their way to the loo unless hired attendants or swearing relatives point it out. Together with the handful that is still blessed with something close to robust health, they have one thing in common. They are seated, restless or restive, in various existential departure halls, clutching fitfully at their boarding passes and waiting for that inevitable voice that cannot be disobeyed, to announce their flights into past tense.

In a broad sense, the departed leave their legacies, good, bad or ugly, for those standing in line and waiting their turns to also check out. What legacies, dear Sam, are you and I feverishly working day and night to leave for those coming in our wake? When you write an article that denigrates the Igbo nation of over 50 million people, and make nonsense of some of those things that mean the most to them, do you really believe that your disposition is justified by the pay and perquisites that accrue to you at Ahmed Bola Tinubu’s The Nation newspapers?

This is you: “The Biafran babblers are alive and well. They just swapped icons, rechristened the shrines and rewrote the rites. They left the prophet for a secular priest. They have had a switch of battle gear.” This clearly is a perfidious way of sentencing Ndigbo to the status of the bat that is neither bird nor mammal. Their fight for Biafra five decades ago was stopped. Their fight now for democratic integration impels you to call them babblers, i.e., people who are no more than endless talkers of nonsense. One would think that the bat sobriquet aptly becomes your Bola Ahmed Tinubu whose initials provide the BAT acrostic that he wears like a badge. I will sooner return to the BAT.

This, again, is your characterisation of the Igbo: “They can say they have a legitimate tribe and rhetoric. They may pretend to love Nigeria. They may claim to embrace INEC, cling to a political party no one in the police or DSS will harangue.”

Isn’t this the height of Igbophobia? We may go back in history. Before Tinubu, there were other Yoruba presidential candidates, including Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Chief M. K. O. Abiola, General Olusegun Obasanjo, Chief Gani Fawehinmi and Chief Olu Falae. None of these personages indexed their presidential ambition on stoking inter-tribal animosity between the Yoruba and the Igbo. As a matter of fact, Chief Philip Ezebuilo Umeadi, Igbo and one of the oldest Senior Advocates of Nigeria, was Papa Awolowo’s running mate in the 1979 presidential election.

Why does it make sense to you and to your principal that the only route to his vaulting presidential ambition must be one that sunders two ethnic groups that have since before the amalgamation been living together in amity, harmony and peace, two peoples that have always, in peace or in peril, lent each other a helping hand?

At the height of the Western Nigeria political crisis of the mid 1960s that pitted Chief Awolowo against Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola, the former’s Action Group (AG) and Dr. M. I. Okpara’s National Convention of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) entered into a coalition that birthed the United Progressives Grand Alliance (UPGA). We have it on Wole Soyinka’s authority – see page 73 of his autobiographical You Must Set Forth At Dawn (Bookcraft, Ibadan 2006) that Dr. Okpara lent the then incarcerated Awo a voice by dispatching Mazi Anyogu Elekwachi Ukonu and a complement of seasoned broadcasters that installed a transmitter right inside Awolowo’s Ibadan home.

Ndigbo were not a part of Awolowo’s treason trial and his imprisonment for ten years. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe even said that he was the one that insisted on Awolowo being imprisoned in Calabar, rather than in Northern Nigeria where the chief feared that poisoning could end his life.

It was not the Igbo that nullified Chief Abiola’s victory in the 1993 presidential election. Rather, Ndigbo were in the forefront of the NADECO (National Democratic Coalition) struggle against the gross injustice. At least a third of those that formed the NADECO were Igbo, according to a list in Battlelines: Adventures in Journalism and Politics, Chief Segun Osoba’s autobiography published in 2020 by Diamond Publications Limited, Lagos. They included Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe, the late Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu, Okwadike (Dr.) Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Prof Anya O. Anya, Chief Ralph Obioha, Chief Empire Kanu, Chief Michael Anyiam, Chief E. Duru, Chief Vincent Nwizugbo and Dr. Uma Eleazu.

NADECO had an international arm. In the United Kingdom, its meetings were held in the late Raph Uwechue’s Africa Books Limited offices in Hammersmith London. Chief Uwechue was Igbo. Dear Sam, I do not know exactly where you were at the time, and I concede that, among Nigerian politicians, there is something known as selective amnesia. If, therefore, your Tinubu, who lived in London for a portion of his exile, does not remember Uwechue’s role in NADECO, I am sure that none of General Alani Akinrinade, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi and Professor Sylvester Monye will ever forget. All the Igbo fighters for June 12 were not dissuaded by the fact that their struggle was to actualise the electoral mandate of Chief Abiola, a Yoruba politician. Apart from incarceration, harassment by security operatives and the alienation of exile, some of these men paid heavily in other ways for their commitment to cause of justice. Chief Bobo Nwosisi died in exile in London. Chief Obioha lost his bank, the First African Trust Bank Limited.

In the light of the above, readers would have to judge for themselves whether or not it is right for you, Sam, to say the following of Ndigbo: “They have transferred the temperament of their former master into the new. And they have not spared any incoherence, any lack of finesse, and threats and tantrums, any show of rabid, primitive cants, or any ululations. They have abused, cursed, thrown imprecations. They have hugged lies about their candidate. They have pelted lies about others. They have distorted material. Obi has turned out to be an excuse for even closet Biafrans to betray open emotions about Biafra without being accused of it.”

To be sure, your writing is not an aberrant occurrence. On July 17, 2022, an Adedamola Adetayo posted on the Internet an anti-Igbo diatribe in which he said, among other things that “They have a POLITICAL ZIONISM already in play. It is in the thing they deceptively call Obidients. That Movement is going to RALLY the Igbos of Lagos in a way that they haven’t ever been rallied. THEY ARE SET TO DETERMINE THE LEADERSHIP OF LAGOS. The priority is to remove Tinubu first. In future they will call the shot. This is what Peter Obi is all about. He has no plans for any Presidency. I can imagine that the ZIONISTS already have their IPOB/UGM all over the places in Lagos, in the Garrisons called Markets, under cover, masquerading as Igbo traders.”

Years before this ranting Adedamola Adetayo, John Femi Kusa, who had been a script editor at The Guardian in Lagos, also showed his claws. In March 2019, he published an article on the Internet with this sentence of a title: Okota: The Igbo Question, Jimi Agbaje, Afenifere And The Rest Of Us. In it, he claimed that, “The major problem, in my opinion, is the Igbo penchant to wish to take over another person’s land…Lagos was either a colony or a part of Western Nigeria. But because of the generosity of Yorubas and the foresight of their forefathers which made this region the star region in West Africa, the Igbos would like the Yorubaman to believe that LAGOS IS NO MAN’S LAND. Can anyone say that of Benin without eating his pounded yam as raw yam?”

Dear Sam, your Obi-tuary piece is as incendiary as the hateful views of Kusa and Adetayo. Kusa, now well into his 70s will not physically go feeding the Igbo raw yam. But all the vitriol you guys have been pushing against the Igbo is the stuff that leads the M. C. Oluomos into mindless violence and murder and arson and brigandage. You pen pushers of evil are the ones that egg on the rabble into wielding guns and cudgels and massacring innocent people for transient political offices. Is it right to promote this permittivity simply so that Tinubu will attain his wild goose chase of the presidential crown?

Kusa schooled at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, earning a degree in Mass Communication. All through his years in the Igbo country, not once was he molested or denied his citizenship on account of his origin. Did his welcome at Nsukka lead him into believing that the town was a part of the Yoruba country? According to Facebook, the acerbic Adetayo guy schooled at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, and earned a degree there without abuse, let or hindrance. Maybe it got fixed inside his brain that Awka is an extension of Lagos, or that Azikiwe after whom the institution was named was his progenitor.

If there are Ndigbo who say that Lagos is a no man’s land, can one Igbo person be put up who simply seized a piece of land in the metropolis and converted it to his use? If Nigerians, including Tinubu’s daughters, who have being buying up choice properties in New England, United States, can own houses in Europe, North America, the Middle East and elsewhere, why must it rankle that Ndigbo own property in Lagos? Why must ownership of landed property in one’s own country lead to calumniation and physical harm? Is it not too steep a price to pay in order that Tinubu should become Nigeria’s president?

The Igbo were not responsible for the recent bloody massacre of congregants inside the St Francis Catholic Church in Owo, Ondo State. The Igbo are not among those sentenced to death by hanging for the murder of Afenifere leader Chief Reuben Fasanranti’s daughter. The herdsmen marauding, pillaging and plundering Yoruba land, looting, raping women, destroying farmlands and spreading death and destruction are not Igbo. The Igbo man did not kill a soul. He did not contest the governorship of Lagos. He hasn’t ever claimed ownership of Iga Idungaran. The Igbo always lived in peace with the Yoruba – until Tinubu surfaced with his divisive politics. Are the vociferous Igbo supporters of Tinubu no longer of the ethnic group because of their partisan predilection?

Sam, informed readers of your articles are aware that your allusions to classical Anglo-Saxon, Greek and Roman mythologies and literary divergences are no more than an egregious attempt at appropriating the intellectual centre circle. Otherwise, you would appreciate the importance of adding depth to your fulminations. Any owner of a book of quotable quotes or a glossary of literary terms can fill their verbiage with citations. But that is no scholarship, my friend. Look at you: “Obi is like Zik, Kanu like Ojukwu. One is a flair, the other a flare.” Yet, it doesn’t strike you as reasonable to accord some of Zik’s aptitude to Peter Obi, a man who earned an honours degree in Philosophy from Nigeria’s premier indigenous university that was built by the great Zik of Africa. And Ojukwu is no more than a flare. By impugning him with combustibility, you forget that in January 1967, Ojukwu went to Aburi, Ghana, not with an incendiary device, but with the sole purpose of putting out the smoldering fire that was threatening to become a national conflagration. You forget that it was not Ojukwu but those that reneged on the Aburi Accord that tossed a lit match in an ocean of gasoline.

I agree with those that have invested you with the coronet of a seasoned journalist. Except that your coronation disdains the fact that your brand of perceptive journalism is only seasonal. That explains why it bothers you that “Obi hops from church to church,” but means absolutely nothing to you that as Dele Sobowale reported in the Sunday Vanguard of July 10, 2022 “…Bola Tinubu has charged the Supreme Council for Sharia in the country to create a department of political affairs to create political awareness among the faithful towards producing a Muslim President in 2023.” Neither do you care a hoot that, as Dr. Sobowale added in the same article “Tinubu has followed up that injunction to the Supreme Council for Sharia, by making secret pledges to expand the reach of Sharia to more Southern States if elected.”

Rather, you call Peter Obi a hypocrite. But Mr. Obi gave his date of birth, the name of his parents, the town he hails from, the schools he attended and the businesses he is into. All were found to be correct. Not being at all interested in the truth, you threw Mr. Obi’s data out of the window because you must be seen to be frantically propagating a character of disputed age, of unknown pedigree, unascertained genealogy, unsubstantiated name, uncorroborated curriculum vitae, and unverified academic diplomas. You shout from the rooftops that Peter Obi is not fit to govern. But you posit as fit for the presidential palace a specimen of incontinence, tremulous lower extremities, slurred speech, unsteady gait and memory lapses. You cannot be serious, my friend.

Of course, it is your entitlement to advertise even ordure if that captures your fancy, but you may not carry on as though your readers are imbecilic. By raising the Biafran bogey, your intention was clearly to create doubt and apprehension. But your gambit only registered a calamitous failure. Jonathan was President of this country. It didn’t obliterate Niger Delta agitation. Buhari is president of this country; those of his people campaigning for the Islamic State haven’t thrust their swords in their scabbards. You have a fondness for excoriating Nnamdi Kanu. Excellent! Except that your seasonal flair for journalism has never prompted you into examining the Sunday Igboho phenomenon. You make yourself a laughing stock by encapsulating in ethnic strictures the pan-Nigerian Peter Obi Movement that is youth led. You reckon not one bit that the youths that are sick and tired of the sanguinary dreariness and aridity of your principal’s vanishing epoch.

Nonetheless, you cannot contest the truism that, in the last analysis, everything goes and turns round. All metals are bound for the anvil. We are here today – those, like Peter Obi and his equally competent and credible running mate, Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed, that wish to place a new heart in the Nigerian nation; and others like your principal and his paid battalions of blinkered acolytes that, as Pa Ayo Adebanjo finely put it, are only interested in continuing and escalating the rot they inflicted on hapless Nigerians in 2015. Whatever tomorrow brings, you must continue to ruminate over the legacy you will leave for coming generations. Every one of us will have their entrance and their exit, it being a settled fact that obituary’s certitude rings true for all comers, not just for Peter Obi as you wantonly asserted.

 Chuks Iloegbunam is the author of the upcoming book on Mr. Peter Obi entitled The Promise of a New Era.

Posted in Uncategorized

Fifth Sunday of Lent, first reading with some commentary

By Noel Ihebuzor

Today’s first reading says it all for me. There is nothing that God cannot do. Nothing! I survey our current tragedies and aridities, I contemplate the endless twisting and slippery road before us, I examine the wasteland before us, an avoidable wasteland caused by greed, incompetence, lack of vision, emotional aridity and lack of compassion…..yes, I see the suffering these impose on us – the suffocating climate of helplessness and rampaging despondency….and many more negative manifestations of these sad times….and I remember the qualities of our God, the qualities of our God who renews and who converts deserts to greens, who levels mountains and I tell myself, this current mess, these years of mess, these years of hunchback misery, this insecurity, this hopelessness, this bumbling inefficiency, this reign and triumph of arrogance and ignorance… yes, ALL THESE MUST PASS. Join me in a loud MARANATHA!

Posted in governance, Politics, Prose

Nkemdirim by Noel Ihebuzor

The person who calls his/her child Nkemdirim is not asking for too much! The person is simply asking God to confirm and sustain his gift to him or her. He or she is also asking God to imbue that gift with utility, distinctiveness, a sense of identity, permanence and sustainability. Nkemdirim is also a prayer that the gift remains with us whatever may be the vicissitudes of life!

People advance and progress when they grow, solidify and edify what is theirs. People advance when they build on their positive values and assets. Peoples and nations advance recognizing the value of what is theirs and not by uncritical self abandonment nor by group rejection nor through the adoption of the structures that belong to others. You cannot be an Ogaranya with someone else’s wealth or structure. Charity and beauty, they say, start from home. “Eji eshi uyo mara mma fuma ama” the Owerri person would say, and correctly too!
We approach others with more confidence and with a greater sense of security when invested and vested in our uniqueness, our USP, if you like. These constitute our distinctiveness.
In such situations, our base is firm, our unit flags, our symbols and our totems are visible, unique, vibrant and distinctive.

These things give us identity. A family, a village, a town, a clan…indeed, any structure without identity is lost and will be absorbed by others in a way that degrades it and ultimately wipes it off from any serious reckoning.

As in life, so also in other spheres of life, including associating with others in politics. Which political structure is ours? Just asking! Nkemdirim.

Posted in Uncategorized

“On institutions – an addendum” by Noel Ihebuzor

The successful inauguration ceremonies yesterday in the USA after weeks of turbulence and mayhem prompts these quick reflections on the importance of institutions in governance, alternation and social stability. They extend my earlier musings on institutions and are essentially intended to make the case for all and sundry to abandon short term expediency driven thinking and support citizen efforts and coalitions focused on institution building and strengthening. Sustainable development depends on strong institutions. SDG 16 clearly makes this case.
Institutions are as strong as the degree of immersion of its operators in their key norms and tenets, the socialization of these operators and the larger society into accepting the utility of such norms, the interlocks and interpenetration of their supporting networks and the quality of the enculturation of a critical mass of society of its key ethos and beliefs. The absence of all these explains the sad and repeated and repeating cases of institutional failures in Nigeria. The presence of these explains why Trump could not get the army to violate its oath. Poorly locked down norms and weak norm enculturation among a critical mass of stakeholders also can explain the vagaries, abuses and somersaults in some countries with huge GDPs but febrile and feeble institutions.

Posted in Uncategorized

Musings on Institutions by Noel Ihebuzor

  1. Recent events in our world are making us painfully aware that the institutions on which our societies are built are under threat. On-going efforts in a number of countries around the world, including attempts at muzzling the press, gimmicks by a president to delegitimize the outcome of an electoral process, the hijacking of parliaments in some countries, the use of deadly force against peaceful demonstrators and efforts at voter suppression all point to the dangers that society and institutions are increasingly facing in our modern world.
  2. Furthermore, the rising incidences of insecurity, poverty, hunger, injustice, systemic racism and gender-based violence, just to mention a few, are not fortuitous, but are rather signals that the institutions that are or were meant to guard against such are no longer functioning at their optimal levels. Ditto for failures in public procurement, declining standards in the regularity and quality of urban basic services and in collapsing municipal functions.
  3. The institutions that are meant to ensure that these services are provided or which were designed to protect our freedoms are now either becoming increasingly moribund or experiencing severe existential threats or are being exposed to severe bashing and or subversion, some subtle and some, frontal, brutal and unrelenting.
  4. The phenomenon of institutional bashing appears to be spreading all over the world from Asia, North America, South America, Europe to Africa, and if current happenings in God’s own country are anything to go by, would be seem to be gathering momentum and exercising a strong fascination for an increasing group of persons, converts and democracy iconoclasts.
  5. The aberrations mentioned above produce effects that lead to democratic backsliding, a backsliding that could then set off a vicious cycle of institutional weakening with deleterious impacts on a broad range of other institutions and this with major multiplier effects and compounded negative externalities and a number of social malaises.
  6. If these malaises can be blamed on weakening of institutions, what then are institutions? These non-random musings are prompted by a genuine desire to explore the concept of institutions, to unearth its meaning and the key assumptions that populate its vast and ever-expanding literature.
  7. These ramblings are structured thus – they start with an examination of the meaning of institutions and then move on to a consideration of the functions of institutions in society. From here, focus then shifts to threats to institutions and the ramblings end on what responsible citizens can do to check the attack on institutions.
  8. One needs to acknowledge from the outset that the literature in the area poses major challenges and which unless navigated with caution could represent conceptual landmines that stand in the way of shared understanding. Taking a leaf from North, all scholars in the field talk of rules of the game but most of the literature is quite fuzzy when it comes to giving concrete examples. For some, family is an institution, for some others, marriage. For some, Governance is an institution, for some others the constitution and the system of election are. People like me in search of clarity could thus be wrong-footed in this maze of definitional unclarity and inadequacies.
  9. Perhaps scholars need to come together to speedily address and resolve this unclarity. In such an effort, the definitions of sociologists, economists and administrators must be assisted to find common grounds both in content and in examples that they provide.
  10. For now, one can work with the following definition – Institutions are the formal and informal rules and norms that organize social, political and economic relations (North, 1990). Institutions are ‘the underlying rules of the game’. They are not the same as organizations.
  11. Organizations are ‘groups of individuals bound by a common purpose’. Organizations are shaped by institutions and, in turn, influence how institutions change. Some social scientists view organizations as the material expressions of institutions. Some see social groups such as government bodies, tribes and families as institutions. Some identify ‘primary’ or ‘meta’ institutions to be the family, government, economy, education and religion. North, 1990: 3, 5; Harper et al., 2012: 15.
  12. Key features of institutions are the following – They are brought to life by people and organizations (North, 1990; Leftwich & Sen, 2010).
    They provide a relatively predictable structure for everyday social, economic and political life. Institutions shape people’s incentives (or calculations of returns from their actions) and behavior. They establish a predictable, though not necessarily efficient or uncontested structure for human interaction (North, 1990: 6).
    Some argue institutions shape but do not necessarily always determine behavior (Leftwich & Sen, 2010: 9).
    They lead to enduring patterns of behavior over time but they also change. Institutions are constantly being reformed through people’s actions (Giddens, 1984). Institutional change structures the way societies evolve (North, 1990: 3). However, institutionalized behaviors can be hard to change.
    They produce positive or negative development outcomes. This depends on the kinds of relations and behaviors that institutions enable, and the outcomes for the enjoyment of rights and allocation of resources in society (Leftwich & Sen, 2010).
    Institutions are both formal and informal. Formal institutions include the written constitution, laws, policies, rights and regulations enforced by official authorities. Informal institutions are (the usually unwritten) social norms, customs or traditions that shape thought and behaviour (Leftwich & Sen, 2010; Berman, 2013). Development practitioners have tended to prioritise formal institutions, viewing informal ones as separate and often detrimental to development outcomes (Unsworth, 2010).
  13. In practice, formal and informal rules and norms can be complementary, competing or overlapping (Jütting et al., 2007: 36; Leftwich & Sen, 2010: 17). Whether they are relatively more strong/weak or inclusive/discriminatory is likely to depend on context (Unsworth, 2010). In some cases, informal institutions undermine formal ones; in others they substitute for them (Leftwich & Sen, 2010: 17; Jütting et al., 2007: 35-36). Informal social norms often shape the design and implementation of formal state institutions (Migdal, 2001; Jütting et al., 2007: 7).
  14. Let us note the following – Institutions should not be mistaken with buildings or physical structures. They rather refer to a set or series of rules, practices and procedures which govern the smooth functioning of societies. Institutions involve rules and norms, but some of these rules and norms are almost imperceptible and rely on a series of layered conventions and assumptions to maintain order and harmony in society. Concerning the link between development interventions and institutions, DFID argues that development interventions are more likely to succeed if they promote improvements at the wider level of institutions. (Without institutional reform, for instance, poverty alleviation programmes can fail – a basic truth that explains the glaring failures and indeed the poverty of most of poverty alleviation programmes in a number of third world economies).
  15. Family, marriage, government, banks, religious organizations, social clubs, parliaments, schools etc are all institutions. One can argue a certain biologism when examining institutions and their functions. Marriage as institution, for instance, functions to ensure social stability, reproduction and production. Places of religious worship function as defenders of morals, morality and social ethics.
  16. The age grade system in Igbo society is an example of a social institution that is society specific. The KKK is not an institution but an organization but the rules and norms of white supremacy and racial privilege on which it is built and sustained are aspects of an institution of systemic racism.
  17. The police and the criminal justice system are institutions designed to save society from anarchy, the rule of brute force and to ensure the protection of the weak.
  18. Banks, investment houses, the stock exchange are all institutions meant to sustain economic growth by ensuring greater predictability and protection in financial dealings and flows. The civil society, the industrial unions, the town associations are all institutions all designed to permit greater citizenship participation and ownership.
  19. In the domains of governance and politics, one comes across a vast array of institutions, each with a number of functions and some with overlapping functions, rules and norms Some scholars have isolated three sets of political institutions – these are the State, Rule of law and institutions that make for accountability.
  20. The state is defined as a structure that holds the monopoly of legitimate violence. In this view, the state represents a concentration of power and capacity for enforcement. The modern state is impersonal, best run on merit and talent and by an efficient bureaucracy. Rule of law represents an institution that allows for the power of the state to be held in check. According to Fukuyama, the rule of law is a constraint on the executive and embedded in a separate independent judiciary.
  21. The last in the tripod of political institutions are accountability mechanisms that cover issues such as procedural and moral accountability and responsibility.
  22. We can also say in a wider conception of institution that the judiciary is an institution, so are the legislature and the executive and these three need to be kept separate in good governance is to survive and thrive. The press is an institution, sometimes even called the fourth estate of the realm and is also vital for good governance.
  23. These four institutions must be kept separate to preserve societies from the menace of tyrants and dictators.
  24. Institutions thus have functions in society –
    They operate to safeguard society.
    They make for normalcy and for ensuring that all keep within agreed and often unwritten norms
    They define expectations, responsibility and establish accountability based on agreed division of labor. Institutions are interlinked such that one weakness in one can lead to weakness in another and in several others. While some are society specific, some have rules and norms that are universal.
  25. Institutional development is a complex process which draws from and build on local realities. The dynamics of institutional change are complex. Creating institutional change is a slow difficult process and some times involves changes in cultural beliefs, norms and assumptions. Such change can often meet with resistance. For this reason, it is important from the outset to establish the development outcomes of any proposed institutional change.
  26. It is critical to distinguish between the organizational changes and the changes in the wider institutional framework needed to achieve these outcomes. Organizational problems are usually visible and tangible while those to do with institutions may be invisible but determine how people operate in society.
  27. Institutional interventions (those that deal with institutional problems) can be divided into two areas: policy reform and improved service delivery. Organizational interventions, on the other hand, can be at three levels: structure, systems and human resources
  28. Successful interventions (be these at organizational or institutional levels) require the active participation of all the stakeholders in diagnosing the problems to be tackled and deciding on the actions to be taken. They also require the following i) Accessing important sources of information and research material to inform both the institutional and organizational appraisal ii) Identifying the key people in implementing the intervention along with their roles and responsibilities. iii) Designing an effective strategy and programme for implementation of the planned intervention, and taking action if a programme becomes stalled and iv) Putting effective evaluation and monitoring systems in place so that there will be clear evidence that the goals of the intervention have been achieved.
  29. Threats to the solidity to democracy that these three institutions contribute to begin to surface when topics like benevolent dictatorships, authoritarian modernizers and well-meaning authoritarianism are allowed to creep into the public discourse.
  30. Tyrants are very fond of such notions and they encourage the uptake of discourse that promote and justify them to creep and seep into the public domain. Things like benevolent dictatorships and authoritarian modernization are unsustainable and their presence in public discourse should be seen as red flags.
  31. For one thing, models inspired by such notions eventually build the cult of the strong man, and such a strong man is usually insensitive to and non-receptive of feedback.
  32. Such developments are red flags, and once these begin to appear, institutions come under threat – both in terms of solidity and stability
  33. Essentially such institutions are concerned with making power responsible and ensure that decisions taken by the executive serve the common good
  34. The rule of law therefore represents norms of justice that are applicable to all without exception
  35. Standard orthodoxy holds that social progress depends on the solidity of institutional arrangements
  36. Some development theorists have argued that development is impossible in the absence of strong institutions, that institutions safeguard development and make them sustainable.
  37. Some others have also argued that you do not really need institutions for development to occur, that institutions involve too many transaction costs and that development, any way, brings institutions in its wake. The questions that then emerges is a chicken and egg one – which came before the other. A related and often ignored question is that of the trade-offs involved.
  38. Each one of these two possible views implies a view of development – both in terms of its social drivers, the role of people participation in it and the whole question of sustainability. Though views on development may vary and clash, there is a strong consensus among development practitioners on the role of good governance in promoting development.
  39. Such an emerging consensus is now leading scholars and practitioners to devote more and more time to understanding those institutions that combine to enable societies to have all the benefits of good governance.
  40. Good governance is about public service that is efficient, effective, responsive, transparent, accountable, consensus oriented and participatory. These qualities of Governance all add up to contribute to society’s social capital. Social capital forms the structure on which most other capitals – economic, financial, knowledge, intellectual, legal – are built
  41. Tyrants and dictators whether of the left or from the right are the greatest threats to the stability of social institutions, and thus to good governance and ultimately to the sanctity and the rights of the citizen. A system of checks, balances and rules are usually put in place to keep such institutions functional and thriving. Dictators and tyrants do their best to undermine the functioning of such institutions.
  42. They try to do this by undermining and weakening institutions through a number of egregious acts that threaten and eventually undermine and subvert such institutions. They do or try to do through several strategies viz
    • They de-legitimize such institutions. They trivialize such institutions
    • They underfund such institutions.
    • They influence and corrupt the leadership of key societal institutions
  43. Other antics include the attack and demoralization of the judiciary and legislative institutions.
    • Parliament is bought over with generous and its members are seduced to soil their hands with generous gifts.
    • Anti-corruption agencies are converted to instruments for personal vengeance and attacks against opponents.
    • The corruption of anti-corruption agencies is a major feature of the demise of institutions
  44. Other institution bashing moves include the following:
    • some Institutions become co-opted as willing hatchet persons whose primary assignments and ultimate deliverable is the discrediting and eventual drowning of existing institutions.
    • The police and other law enforcement agencies are perverted.
    • organs of government, especially the judiciary are bought over and soon begin to deliver judgements that put their whole integrity and the credibility of their judgments in doubt.
  45. As these processes are unleashed on an indifferent or tolerant society, one begins to notice that the strong man who arrived as a liberator and reformer is gradually morphing into a tyrant. Most times, this strong man/woman rides in on a wave of public disenchantment with existing social stasis which he exploits to wrest extra-judiciary and legislative powers. He or she demonizes the leaders of institutions that they cannot buy over. Suddenly elections are decided by the courts and judges appointed by the strongman/woman. Soon justices, judges and magistrates court the friendship of their strong man/woman who eventually curtails their powers and tenure according to his/her whims and pleasures
  46. The strong man/woman unleashes a campaign of harassment and terror against such any institutional leadership that is bold enough to speak out. The strong meddles, pesters and slowly and subtly hijacks the organs and institutions of the state and converts these to attack dogs, rottweilers and agents of terror
  47. He perverts, through a series of accretions, the ethos and functioning of some institutions. The long-term objective is the hijack and personalization of Institutions of the state.
  48. New structures with hazily defined functions but limited accountability to the public are soon spawned. Constitutional provisions are ignored or spurned. A gradual attack on civil liberties with the complicity of an emasculated and perverted judiciary soon commences and pucks up speed. Civil society and the press are muzzled. Laws limiting freedom of expression and are rushed through to legitimize new and emergent forms of illegitimacy
  49. Soon a new norm, corrupt in intention, warped in its formulation and odious in its outcomes starts being installed. Decency is dismantled progressively and existing institutions soon begin to lose their internal autonomy. The structure and composition of some state institutions are soon changed by such usurpers. When institutions are forced and rushed through such changes, they begin to lose their credibility in the eyes of the public. They also become weaker. Weak institutions allow for further weakening and social abuse.
  50. Because institutions are organically linked and exist in some form of hierarchy, a weakening of one institution transmits some weakening to other institutions engaged in similar civic protection functions. For example, a weak legislative invariably leads to a weak judiciary, which in turn leads to a weakening of institution concerned with the protection of civil liberties
  51. One of the greatest threats to the autonomy of institutions is their personalization by such power usurpers. Features of such usurpation and perversion/hijack of functions of public institutions is their use to settle personal scores and not for the service of the people. Sadly, such selfish exploitation of the functions of public institutions is accompanied by the acquiescence of the public in the loss and suspension of personal liberties. The justification and rationalization of this loss of personal freedoms is usually done by invoking the idea that this is being done for a superior public good.
  52. Strong ambitious individuals are a threat to institutions of state. Insensitive individuals are the worst enemies of institution. Dictators hate institutions. Institution bashers hate institutions. Tyrants work to weaken institutions. Such persons can achieve these feats because of the lethargy and indifference of the public.
  53. The dismantling of institutions thrives in a situation where the public is lethargic Institution dismantling thrives in an atmosphere of stakeholder and citizen indifference. Africa has had more than its fair share of such institution dismantlers. In this regard, a reading of Michela Wrong’s “In the footsteps of Mr. Kurtz; living on the brink of disaster in Mobutu’s Congo” is most revealing and instructive. Mobutu was the institution dismantler par excellence.
  54. Often times, such dismantling is done in slow imperceptible stages such that by the time the public wakes up, a lot has been lost and is difficult to pull back. Such usurpers usually sell themselves to a gullible public as messiahs who have come to redeem society and restore its sanity. A cult of the person is carefully cultivated such the strong individual is easily allowed to usurp functions and roles that are not his/hers.
  55. Selfish individualism and an absence of social cohesion breeds anomie and criticism which then encourage institution dismantles of rashness and further knavery. Civic timorousness encourages usurper temerity. Fela said it well -“I no wan die”, “Papa dey for house”, “I wan enjoy” – are all attitudes which lead to societal indifference.
  56. Responsible citizens must all unite to resist the dismantling of institutions of democracy. They must overcome divisions that usurpers try to exploit. The common divisions that such usurpers appeal to are those of Creed and Breed. Such usurpers also appeal to Greed existing in society to recruit an army of followers who they use to advance their selfish and socially destructive purposes.
  57. Andrew Marantz in an article in the New Yorker of November 16 2020 identifies the key risks that institutional violators and power grabbers who I prefer to describe as progressive institutional rapists pose to democracy. Marantz goes on to describe how the actions of such persons can lead to the norms and rules of institutions growing weaker over years or decades without people noticing. He also points out that there often are decisive moments of contestation and confusion that such violators and authoritarian power grabbers stoke and exploit to steal power and damage institutions. Maurice Latey, in Tyranny, A Study in the Abuse of Power makes similar observations.
  58. When institutions are destroyed or perverted, the destroyer becomes stronger and the larger society gets weaker following the rapid loss of freedoms – society must therefore come together to challenge, resist and pushback. Your personal freedoms and liberties depend on such resistance as these institutions are the bulwarks for the defense of personal freedoms.
  59. Options for resisting such erosions of the protective power of institutions include strategic non-violent activism and civil resistance for security, rights and access. John Lewis’ concept of good trouble should inspire all civil rights defenders here, whether these be individuals protesting the perversion and conversion of agencies and institutions for citizen protection to instruments of citizen persecution, extortion and exploitation. Good trouble is a good way to protect those institutions that were meant to protect us from abuse. Silence is not an option.
  60. Acquiescing in the dismantling of such protective institutions therefore amounts to selling your liberty and freedom. Rights and freedoms must be defended.
    Noel Ihebuzor 18/11/2020 
    Useful sources on institutions
    DFID Guidelines on Promoting Institutional and Organisational Development (2003a) provide an overview of institutions and institutional change.
    Leftwich and Sen (2010) define institutions and their policy implications for donors.
    Giddens (1984) explores the role of structure and institutions in society.
    Harper et al. (2012) explain different understandings of institutions.
    Helmke and Levitsky (2004) summarise the literature on informal institutions.
    Jütting et al. (2007) summarise key issues on informal institutions and development.
    North (1990) provides a seminal definition of institutions and institutional change.
    Unsworth (2010) explores the interaction of formal and informal institutions. – « Inclusive institutions on the development agenda, How institutions shape development outcomes »
Posted in Basic Education, governance, Politics

Towards Developing a Training Package for House Committee members on Basic Education


Noel Ihebuzor

Interest in increasing the effectiveness of actors and duty bearers in the public domain has continued to grow since its beginnings following the launch of the movement in new public management (Hood, 1991; Gruening, 2001). The advantages claimed for a New Public management (NPM) approach in governance include the following – greater efficiency, greater focus on performance and results as well as their objective measurement, improved use of resources, these including human, financial and material resources. Hand in hand with these developments in public sector management has been a call for greater value for money in the use of resources appropriated by governments in the provision of basic social services such as Basic Education, primary health care as well as water and environmental sanitation. Members of parliament have important roles not only in ensuring that budgets are approved and appropriated for the provision of such basic social services but also in seeing that the approved budgets are utilized in manners consistent with the best practices in public finance management (PFM). Such roles ensure that cost savings, cost efficiencies and service maximization are achieved in the use of public resources and assets.  

It is such development thinking that informs the support that development partners working through relevant ministries continue to provide to the training and sensitization of law makers in Nigeria. UNICEF, for instance, has supported the design and development of a training manual for the training and sensitization of law makers from the state houses of assembly who are members of house committee on education. The purpose is to aid in their understanding of the processes primarily around the UBE act as well as other education documents/plans as a necessary step strengthening their capacity to provide required legislation and oversight for the education sector.

The training/sensitization programme has two objectives:

  • to facilitate an enhanced understanding of the education sector and its recurring challenges.
  • to acquaint law makers on the role they should play to protect education especially at the basic level through legislation and oversight.

Basic Premises

Basic Education is the foundation of all education. If the foundation is weak, then the entire edifice risks instability and possible eventual collapse. It is therefore important that this substructure of education is solidly built. Secondly, basic education caters for the education for all at the base. It is thus the level of education with the greatest egalitarian relevance and appeal. It is the level of education that any one with an interest in inclusive education will first to need to tackle and get right. A society with an interest in stimulating economic growth through investment in education will also need to invest in basic education as it has been shown to have multiplier effects of all other aspects of education and uptake of basic social services. All the thinking above inform global interest in universal basic education as one lever for vital socio-economic transformation.

The UBE programme in Nigeria has its parentage in a number of human rights documents and development program thinking. Most human rights declarations make the important distinction between those who have rights holders and those whose custodial, constitutional and social functions are to ensure that those rights are met. Such persons are known as duty bearers. There is now evidence that the capacity and ability of duty bearers to effectively discharge their obligations to duty holders is a function of several factors  –

  • Understanding and appreciation of those rights
  • Importance and significance of those rights
  • Awareness of and Empathy with the plight of rights holder
  • Sense of Solidarity with rights holder
  • Level of Education and information of the basis of those rights
  • Knowledge of what to do and who to partner with to further those rights etc

In furthering the actualization of the rights of rights holders, duty bearers carry out a number of linked functions which include

  • Service provision
  • Procurement
  • Service supervision and monitoring,
  • Advocacy and awareness creation,
  • Alliance building and networking
  • Standards setting 
  • Compliance monitoring
  • Law making        
  • Mentoring, etc

Though all these functions are important, perhaps the most important is that of supervision. Supervision ensures compliance with agreed standards, proper resource utilisation, service provider conduct and presence, effective service delivery and waster minimisation. This is true whether we are dealing with duty bearer functions in the areas of water and sanitation, housing, leisure, recreation, nutrition or education. Indeed, in basic education, supervision by duty bearers leads to greater value for money and to ensuring that public resources set aside for or dedicated to basic education are optimally utilized.

Of all duty bearers, members of the house of representatives, especially those in committees charged with oversight functions for Basic education, have a critical role to play in the sustenance of BASIC EDUCATION.  They can carry out these roles in several ways, some of which have been mention in passing earlier in our general consideration of the roles of duty bearers in the provision of universal basic education. With specific regard to this subsector of basic social services, members of the House committee can get involved in the following ways

Advocating with the Executive for improved budgets for basic education

Insisting on improved public finance management as it concerns basic education at all levels of the value chain

Moving bills for basic education management, administration and or improvement, be these in the areas of minimum standards, Teacher hiring and firing, Teacher Incentives, Teacher Qualifications, Conditions for PRESET and INSET

Monitoring resource utilization in basic education

Lobbying, influencing and mobilizing other policy makers, the executive, the private sector and other social influencers for necessary policy changes that would advance all aspects of basic education be it Access, Retention, Quality and Completion.

To carry out these many functions, such House committee members need to equipped through exposure to a learning package which blends elements of sensitisation and guided learning experiences to acquire certain skills, affects and capacities.

The rest of this paper describes the steps taken in the design and development of this special programme for house committee members of basic education. It describes the processes adopted as well as the considerations that informed them.The development described below was carried out by a group of educators, teacher trainers, educational planners and administrators working together as a team. The emphasis here is on team work.

Step 1 – identify the essential core and content of the learning package.

To do this, the team had to answer the question – for a house member to lobby effectively for universal Basic education, to monitor Basic education provision, to provide oversight for basic education provision, to make laws for basic education, to move bills for basic education, to become an advocate for basic education, what does he or she need to know? Questions like this represent some form of indirect needs assessment. As is now well accepted, needs assessment is a necessary first step in the design of relevant learning experiences and packages.  Carried out in the form of a brain storming exercise by the design team, this exercise yielded the following three core knowledge needs/areas of vital learning

Policy framework for basic education – National   Policy   on   Education (NPE) 2013, normative framework for basic education provision

Nigeria and Universal Basic Education Programme (UBEP) – some history and Context and How UBEP works

Functions of House Committee on Education with regards to Universal Basic Education

These three core learning areas were examined and debated until consensus was achieved that they constituted the necessary, sufficient-Adequate and relevant tripod on which the learning package for House committee members could be built. It is important for us to remind ourselves here that necessity, sufficiency-adequacy and relevance are the prime determinants of correct choices in curriculum design.

Step 2 Conduct a task analysis and work breakdown of each of the elements of the legs of the tripod

The team agreed that the next step would demand that each leg of the tripod be now broken into its constituent parts. For this exercise, the writing team broke into three groups, with a group working on one of the tripods. At the end of the exercise, a plenary was conducted and the following sketch outlines were agreed upon for each of the three arms of the tripod.

Policy framework for basic education – National   Policy   on   Education (NPE) 2013, normative framework for basic education provision

  • The National Policy on Education (NPE) – policy thrust and specification and prescriptions by level
  • Normative frameworks influencing and guiding educational provosions- The Universal Declaration of Human rights, The UN Convention Rights of the Child, The African Union Charter on African Child, The UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and the Ssustainable Development Goals (SDG)
  • Data speaks – the importance of data in education planning and what current data says for each state
  • Key issues in Basic Education – Access, Participation, Retention, Completion, Quality and their indicators, Net versus Gross enrolment
  • Contending issues in basic education – Equity, Inclusion, Inclusion, Gender, Costs of Basic Education, Benefit of Basic Education, Externalities of Basic education, Out of School Children;
  • Things that make for quality education – learner, instructional, administrative, school plant, and environmental factors
  • Quality indicators in basic education delivery
  • Quality versus non – quality indicators in Basic Education

Nigeria and Universal Basic Education Programme (UBEP) – some history and Context and How UBEP works

  • National and global antecedents of UPE and UBE
  • The Regions and Education Ordinances 
  • UBE Legislative framework.
  • Education indicators
  • Education plans and levels – strategic plans versus operational plans
  • Effective schools – their attributes and things to look out when monitoring basic education
  • How to make schools effective
  • Obstacles in the implementation of Basic Education and Strategies to overcome them.
  • Example of successful implementation of basic education act from a comparable country and what this means for Nigeria  

Functions of House Committee on Education with regards to Universal Basic Education

  • Committee members and their roles and responsibilities to the basic education sub-sector
  • Skills required to discharge these roles and to function effectively
  • Revisit to core indicators that would guide the discharge of the roles and responsibilities of house committee members

Step 3

Constitute each of these tripods into a learning session and develop learning outcomes for each session


Learning Outcomes

At the end of this session, participants should be able to:



At the end of the session, House Committee Members should be able to:

Session 3


Members of the Education Committee have among their numerous functions the responsibility of oversight of education matters.  This responsibility involves ensuring a variety of outcomes in education through monitoring, supervision, advocating, lobbying for bills and laws by consultations, communication, negotiation, consensus and relationship building. 

At the end of the session, House Committee Members should be able to:

Step 4

Develop the learning package in line with steps 1-3 above

Step 5

Subject the output of step to peer review, critique and validation.

Validation of this training document was done through a live presentation with lawmakers from four states. Reception was positive and indeed enthusiastic. The writing team however also learnt a few lessons from active engagement and participation in the process for strategic planning and Programme implementation 

Lessons learnt

Some lessons were learnt in developing the training materials. These include the following:

importance of team work

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importance of context sensitive learning materials development

importance of peer review

the sobering truth that effective curriculum building as an interactive process

the fact that effective curriculum development is an iterative process

importance of stating clear and realistic learning outcomes


      Hood C. 1991. A public management for all seasons?, Public Administration. Vol. 69. No. 1

Gruening, G (2001) Origin and theoretical basis of New Public Management, International Public Management Journal 4,  1–25